Viljo Revell’s Toronto City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square (1965) is a well-loved Modernist icon. Completed after his death, the heritage-designated square was true to the spatial arrangement Revell had envisioned; over time, however, it had become run-down and dysfunctional. In 2006, the City of Toronto launched an international competition to redesign NPS. The winning design strategically rethinks the Square to transform it into an exemplary 21st-Century public space, drawing inspiration from Revell’s own references to classical Athenian political spaces. Through the redesign or relocation of existing elements and a new series of buildings and gardens framing the open plaza, the NPS Revitalization enhances the functionality, versatility, and appeal of Toronto’s signature civic space while augmenting this monumental heritage site’s “connectedness” to its surroundings.

View of the theatre stage (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
View of the stage from the elevated walkways
View of the theatre from the east (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
View of the theatre at midday
View of the theatre (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
The theatre at dusk

Revell’s elevated walkways frame the Square and focus views towards the council chamber – as in the Athenian agora, the threshold of a porch (stoa) at the perimeter clearly defined the interior void. This definition was never fully developed, however, in NPS as built. To strengthen the coherence of the Square, the design team executed four tactical moves:

  1. Open the Square – remove clutter at the centre to accommodate all kinds of large cultural gatherings
  2. Create programmed, porous, landscaped “green rooms” around the perimeter to frame the square
  3. Create new activated connections between the raised walkway and the Square
  4. Strengthen links between levels and between zones using new architecture as the bridge to connect the two levels of the square
Disappearing fountains (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Disappearing fountains
Stage and skate pavilion align to frame the square (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Stage and skate pavilion align to frame the square

Major architectural components include the redesigned Skate Pavilion and creation of a permanent Stage with back-of-house suspended below in the parking garage. All new structures are multi-purpose and connect to the walkways. The glass-canopied, terraced form of the theatre provides covered public space and casual seating when not in use for performances, and its stairs connect the raised walkway to the Square. Small events can take place with performers facing westward toward stairs that double as bleacher seating; for larger events, those on the stage face eastward to overlook the entire Square.

The skate pavilion from the west (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
The skate pavilion with overlooks onto the square
Skate pavilion upper level terrace (photo: Steven Evans Photpgraphy)
Skate pavilion upper level terrace · Photo: Steven Evans Photpgraphy
Skate pavilion breezeway (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Skate pavilion breezeway

A Peace Garden added in 1983 near the centre of the Square had compromised the space’s openness and ability to accommodate crowds – relocating it to the western edge freed up the Square’s centre for larger events. The terraced seating of the new Peace Garden is a major structure that conceals the underground parking garage’s exhaust duct while muffling its sound and redirecting the airflow. Other elements include a playground redesign, a new Sculpture Garden, a new forecourt along Queen Street, and a future two-storey restaurant. Although not yet completed, the master plan includes refurbishing the existing elevated walkways with gardens and seating.

Queen Street streetscape (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Queen Street streetscape
Peace garden (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Peace garden
Peace garden at night (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Peace garden at night
Playground (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Playground

Prior to the revitalization, City Hall’s podium was a grim, paved void: it is now Toronto’s largest publicly accessible green roof, a popular urban retreat for sitting and strolling. The Podium Roof Garden’s plantings, which change seasonally from bright yellows and oranges in the southwest to deep reds and purples in the northeast, were chosen to thrive in the site’s challenging shade and wind conditions.

Podium roof garden (photo: Peter Schaudt)
Podium roof garden · Photo: Peter Schaudt
The Podium green roof from above (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
The Podium green roof from above
The garden in fall (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
The garden in fall
The garden in spring (photo: Gabriel Li)
The garden in spring · Photo: Gabriel Li
View of the skate pavilion from the southwest (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Skate pavilion breezeway
Stair beacons (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Stair beacons
Entry to the sculpture garden (photo: Steven Evans Photography)
Entry to the sculpture garden
Nuit Blanche (the next day) (photo: Steven Evans Photograpy)
Nuit Blanche (the next day) · Photo: Steven Evans Photograpy

Peace Garden

publiccivicparkgardengreen roofmemorialgraphics

nps-pg-2016-03-8 (photo: Steven Evans Photography)

project index

  1. A Conversation of Views
  2. Admiral Road Garden
  3. Airdrie Road Garden
  4. Airdrie Road Residence
  5. Albany Avenue Residence
  6. Alexandra Park
  7. Aporia Records
  8. Asphalt Poetry
  9. – Poem
  10. Baby Point Gardens
  11. Beach Garden
  12. Beach Village BIA Master Plan
  13. Beaty Residence
  14. Bennington Heights Garden
  15. Berkeley Street Residence
  16. Bin-Scarth Garden
  17. Blink and you miss it.
  18. – Poem
  19. Bloor St. Apartment
  20. Blue Note
  21. Booth Avenue Residence
  22. Boustrophedon Garden
  23. Braemore Gardens Residence
  24. Browning Avenue Residence
  25. Brunswick Avenue Residence
  26. Camp Arowhon Offices
  27. Canadian Firefighters Memorial
  28. Channelled Buried Moved Lost
  29. Chocolate Loft
  30. City Instrument
  31. Clarendon Garden
  32. Conversation Piece
  33. Creemore Farm
  34. Danforth Mosaic BIA Master Plan
  35. Dickson Park Garden
  36. Dilworth Residence
  37. Don Landing Revitalization
  38. Dublin Grounds of Remembrance
  39. Dundas Roncesvalles Peace Garden
  40. Dupont-by-the-Castle BIA
  41. East Point Bird Sanctuary
  42. Eglinton Ave Forecourt
  43. Eglinton Park Master Plan
  44. Elizabeth Fry Society
  45. Ellsworth Residence
  46. Face to Face | Tête à Tête
  47. First Avenue Garden
  48. First Avenue Residence
  49. Flyover Canada
  50. Foote’s Pond Wood
  51. Forest Hill Village Streetscape
  52. Gaze, Glimpse, Glance
  53. Goldring Landscape, University of Toronto
  54. Gormley Garden
  55. Governor's Bridge Lookout
  56. Greener P
  57. Greer Road Garden
  58. Greer Road Residence
  59. Guelph Bridge
  60. Head in the Clouds
  61. Helena Ave Residence 4
  62. Junction Craft Brewery
  63. Kelpies Competition
  64. Kew Gardens Streetscape
  65. Kipling & Islington Developments
  66. Le jardin du repos
  67. Lenticular Curtain
  68. Leslie Slip Lookout Park
  69. Liberty Village Parkettes
  70. Liza’s Garden
  71. Lynwood Garden
  72. Macroscape
  73. Markham Garden One
  74. Markham Street Residence Two
  75. Midtown Yonge Streetscape
  76. Mulock Park
  77. Nathan Phillips Square
  78. – Streetscape
  79. – Peace Garden
  80. – Podium Roof Garden
  81. Orchard View Garden
  82. Osgoode Atkinson Green Competition
  83. Owl Cottage
  84. Paperstone Scissors
  85. Peripheral Sitings
  86. Pottery Road Crossing
  87. rare
  88. Ravine Forecourt
  89. Ribbon of the Lower Don
  90. Riverside BIA Master Plan
  91. Roxborough Garden One
  92. Roxborough Garden Two
  93. Ryerson Centre for Urban Innovation
  94. Ryerson University Science Building
  95. Schulich School of Business
  96. Sheridan College
  97. – Trafalgar Campus Master Plan
  98. Spadina Quay Wetland
  99. St. Anne's Road Garden
  100. Stratford Market Square Competition
  101. Stratford Patterson Theatre Competition
  102. Superkids Dental
  103. Superlegible
  104. Sweet Farm
  105. Sweet Farm Pond House
  106. Swift Medical Offices
  107. The Meadows Reconsidered
  108. The Red Sash
  109. Thick & Thin
  110. Tipping Point
  111. Tranby Garden
  112. Tree House Residence
  113. UBC Okanagan – The Commons
  114. UHN Tunnels
  115. University of Toronto Mississauga Welcome Centre
  116. Venice Biennale 2012
  117. Vermont Square Park
  118. Vernon Avenue Garden
  119. Walk the Walk
  120. Walmer Road Residence
  121. Welland Canal Fallen Workers Memorial
  122. Wellesley Cottages Garden
  123. Wells Street Residence
  124. Westminster Residence
  125. With Words as Their Actions
  126. Woodlawn Avenue Residence
  127. Woven Stories
  128. York Park